Disappointment Can Be Helpful

November 9, 2017

We’ve all gone through times when we seem to jump from one disappointment to another. We go from low to rock bottom until we finally open our eyes and realize where we are. We are on a strange island surrounded by false friendships, double-faced people, and mistaken feelings. It is then when we can pick up the broken pieces of our heart and finally move forward without looking back. We can move on with dignity and determination.

Experts in sports psychology say that all athletes should learn early on how to deal with disappointment. In any competitive sport, there will be a winner and a loser. All athletes experience moments of better or worse performance. They have injuries and go through things unrelated to their training or performance that can prohibit them from participating in a competition, a test, or a game.

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment”

Henry David Thoreau

In the game of life, the same thing happens. Nevertheless, many of us are taught from early on that if we work really hard, success is guaranteed. We also learn that if we take care of those we love, they will respond in kind. No one wanted to tell us that in the ring of life, two plus two does not always equal four. Or that there are often more clouds than clear blue skies. No one told us that people are fallible, contradictory, and exquisitely imperfect.

Processing day-to-day disappointments is not an easy task. Curiously though, it’s worth mentioning that disappointment is the third most experienced human emotion, after love and regret. Thus, we should learn to recognize it, come to terms with it and confront it. Next, we will talk about how to do that.

disappointment can be helpful

Is disappointment a life requirement? No, not always

There will always be that person who makes a patronizing remark like “experiencing great disappointment in life is necessary. Being disappointed gives us the motivation we need to grow”. These types of sayings look nice on our social media profiles, but we need to analyze them and put them into context.

In the first place, no one is required to experience heartbreaking disappointment to “know what life is about”. It is better to think about it as something we should learn to manage as early as possible. That way, we can avoid losing control of the situation. At the same time, disappointments are always better in small doses. In small amounts, you can learn to truly deal with and channel them so you learn what you can from the experience.

In turn, it is important to reiterate the need to know how to confront day-to-day disappointments. If you are prepared, then you can avoid big-league disappointment, the kind that leaves you completely stuck in the problem, unable to deal with your pain, desperately lost. We say that for a very concrete reason: if left unspoken, small disappointments become silent killers in relationships

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Let’s think about that for a moment: some people opt to ignore their partner’s little snub, and almost without realizing it becomes a daily habit. We say that it’s no big deal when our best friend forgets that today we are getting the results of some important medical tests. We decide to keep silent when our families talk sarcastically about the “ridiculous” project that we are so excited about.

We avoid expressing out loud much disappointment we feel because we don’t want to offend anyone. We are afraid of breaking the bonds that tie us to other people. However, we forgot that we are the ones who are offended, and he who holds in disappointment after disappointment will eventually suffocate. In the end, he will wake up one day and realize that everything around him is a lie. If we react sooner, we learn to react on time. 

Strategies to better deal with disappointment

Disappointment is much more than an unfulfilled expectation. It is a breakdown of certainty, a bond that loses its strength, a gust of cold air that opens our eyes and sometimes puts a wall around our heart. Nevertheless, if there is a reason that disappointment hurts so much it is because we feel responsible and angry with ourselves as well. How could I have taken so many things for granted? How could I have been so trusting and built so much of my house on sand?

If you want to know how to manage these kinds of situations better, think about the following strategies.

“The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes.”

Thomas Hardy

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Untie the knot of disappointment

One of the first things we should learn to avoid is the practice of something known as “recall bias”. We are talking about the tendency to believe, once we know the results of something, that we could have anticipated everything. There are things we can’t foresee, we don’t have a crystal ball that shows us how certain people will react to things. The best thing to do is to accept what happened and avoid blaming ourselves or place all the responsibility on our own shoulders.

The second important factor is related to what we’ve already talked about. We need to be capable of dealing with small disappointments before the come doozies come. The kind that ruin our self-esteem. Remember to always talk about what is bothering you “when it is bothering you, and not when it’s already too late”. 

The third and final strategy that we should apply to our everyday lives is the ability to get some perspective. We must understand that we are all capable of making mistakes. We all have the power to dream and inspire hope and to disappoint. Therefore, we are all subject to this unstoppable cycle of winning sometimes and losing sometimes. We live in a world where the “right” place can change at any time and we have to recycle and change our plans: where we are going, who we are with, and even our goals.

Sometimes, disappointment is just life’s strange way of saying that it has much more in store for us…